Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing it Wrong to Ink it Right

I must confess that I'm a bit of an outline freak when it comes to preparing to write new stories. I design copious character charts (sociology, psychology, physiology). I create massive history files on the political, geographical, and economic makeup of different kingdoms. I make scene outlines for every single chapter. And don't even get me started on the infernal nature of magic systems! As a result of my pre-ink obsession, I usually have around 20 pages of story material before I even write the first chapter.

But I've relearned an important lesson with the current YA draft I'm working on:

Sometimes, you just have to write the story WRONG first in order to ink it right later. No matter how much I outline in advance, when I actually begin to write the story, it becomes, for lack of a better verb, wriggly. That's right, the syllables coil and lose adverbs right and left, scenes twitch and shed reams of bad dialogue, characters convulse in the throes of acute stereotypitis, and as for me? I despair as my precious outline disintegrates into incoherent ramblings.

And . . . this is good.

While I do need an outline to provide the framework of my draft, at the same time I can't let myself become strictly bound to my initial ideas, either. Some of them stink. Some of them just don't work anymore as the draft progresses, and require me to rewrite entire chapters. Some of the ideas need to evolve further before they are anything more than basic building blocks to character or plot. As author Shannon Hale notes on the process of inking stories, "I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles."

So don't wallow in misery if you recognize innumerable flaws in your first draft, and DON'T STOP WRITING. Instead, (this works for me), jot the flaws you find down in a separate file with page numbers included. That way you can easily go back to them in your manuscript when you've sufficiently mulled over the problem. Repeat this process with every draft. The flaw list gets a little smaller each time, until, finally . . .

I will finish this sentence in 2 weeks!

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